Ambition is something I never really lacked. As far back as I can remember, I have always been motivated to do my best and achieve my goals. It is easy to dream big when you’re younger. That kind of optimism is something I really miss. As it increasingly disappears over time, reality sets in. You’re more aware of your own personal limitations as well as the obstacles put in front of you by your environment or by chance. It becomes a game that requires an evolving strategy as the game board constantly changes.
I am still very much an ambitious person. However, the only difference between myself now and myself back then is that I have to try harder as I get older. I wish I had all the free time and energy I wasted so cavalierly a decade ago. Now, I have jobs and responsibilities. I don’t have kids, though. Young parents who manage to still have some semblance of a personal life are super heroes to me.
My career is something I have been very focused on lately. In fact, I’ve always been focused on my career. When I first moved to Chicago, I got a non-profit video production job and did that steadily for three years. Then, I moved on to some freelance consulting for a film non-profit. When I finally got a full-time video production job again, things were looking up. Then, the Chicago branch of this company closed and I was left figuring out what to do next.
What followed was me doing a series of administrative temp jobs. Ultimately, one became permanent with benefits, paid time off, and a 401k retirement plan. I had never had those things before. While this new job wasn’t in my field, it was stable and provided me with the ability to pay my bills without worry and have health insurance. Since I just went through a period of unstable employment due to be being laid off and doing low-level temp jobs, I told myself that I would stay at my new job for two years before I pound the pavement looking for a break in my field.
During those two years, I did a volunteer of volunteer work for a few media non-profits. In fact, I still volunteer because I love it and it builds my resume. One is a community radio station where I develop partnerships with local businesses and organizations. The other is a renowned folk music school where I organize and catalogue records in their archives. As much fun as I have at these places and enjoy what I do, neither directly contributed to my set goal of working in video production.
My two-year anniversary at my current job arrived in January. That would be my starting gun in the race for a new job. Finding a new job takes a lot of work. You send out a high volume of resumes, get met with a high volume of rejections, and the whole process is tedious, monotonous, and time consuming. I envy people who have been at their place of employment for over a decade or have had a high enough of a position where their job hunting work is kept at a minimum. Finding a job is a job itself.
The whole process for me is frustrating because I have a lot of great experience and talent. However, I have hard time telling my story in a way that is attractive to recruiters or hiring managers. The main issues are that I am just too honest and direct plus I really undersell my abilities due to lack of confidence. I am working on these things.
Finding a new job requires more than just a standard approach. You need flexibility to tackle problems with solutions that come in the form of a dynamic, engaged, and multi-faceted plan. You have to give your all in every aspect of the process and not just one part, or you just may as well not be doing anything at all. Contacting recruiters is great and all, but you gotta be hungrier than that. Getting back out in the job market made me realize that while I did a lot of great volunteer work over the last few years, I wasn’t necessarily focusing in on opportunities that were more beneficial to my job hunt. The solution to this problem? Work even harder.
I’ve now started to find opportunities to get back into media production and to use those opportunities as networking opportunities. My community radio station, CHIRP Radio, has an ongoing artist spotlight series called “CHIRP Factory Sessions.” In an episode, an artist is highlighted by the station; usually a local or up-and-coming artist. They perform a few songs during a professional video production session with interview clip interspersed between songs. Even though I had been at CHIRP radio for three years, this was something I never volunteered to help with. That was going to change.
The volunteer work for this program is fairly simple. When the artist and video crew arrive, you just help get their stuff in the building, clear some stuff to make room, and then step back and let them do their thing. Like all the video productions I worked on before, there is a lot of standing around. That is just the nature of the industry. However, you can choose how you use this time. My goal is networking. I hung around and talked with the crew. Nothing too big or serious. Just general bullshitting. This was the first time I had met the crew, so I couldn’t lay it on so thick with the “help me get back into video production” shtick. Gotta take it slow, let them remember you, and then make a move. As I mentioned, finding new opportunities is a very slow process.
Even though I am committed to the long game and willing to wait, it still doesn’t mean I don’t get a little down and overwhelmed by how slow things can move. With how my brain operates, I get a little bummed and then I start thinking about all the bad things. So, that is when I putting my grounding exercises to use and distract myself with something I like. This was starting to happen when the video crew was busy setting up and I didn’t have the chance to engage with them personally, so I talked to one of the artists who came in to perform.
The featured artist that night was Air Credits. Air Credits is a hip-hop duo fronted by Clinton Sandifer who is more known in Chicago by his stage name Showyousuck. Air Credits provides the soundtrack for the not too distant future where the environment is ravaged and the water supply is virtually non-existent. There is a message to their music that is all too real given the environmentally damaging policies of the Trump administration. It is political music for a political time.
I got an opportunity to chat with Sandifer for a bit. The new Kendrick Lamar was a few days away from being released. A lot of pressure was on Lamar considering his previous album To Pimp a Butterfly was a commercial hit and critical milestone. With all the secrecy surrounding Lamar’s album, everyone was dying to know if Lamar could deliver a great work of art again.
One of the big mysteries surrounding the album involved the guests on the record. Only two would be featured; Rihanna and U2. Given that U2 had become kind of a joke with the kids these days because of recent mediocre albums, lack of chart-topping hits, Bono’s philanthropy, and, of course, the whole iTunes fiasco, people were freaking out. How were U2 and Kendrick Lamar going to sound? Was it going to be a sample? Would Bono rap? No one knew and it was driving music fans and the Internet crazy. It was unfathomable for both U2 and Kendrick Lamar fans to imagine such a collaboration. Who had lost their minds between the two?
Sandifer and I talked about the upcoming U2 guest spot. Sandifer was super skeptical, but open-minded. U2 had collaborated with hip-hop and rap artists before, but all those tracks were mediocre at best. Sandifer is a rap artist and aficionado, I am a die-hard U2 fan, and Lamar’s new track was what we shared.
While speculating on the quality of the track, I was talking to Sandifer about some of the comments I had seen online. A lot of jokes were being made, but that was to be expected because no one knew. I frequent a message board run by the U2 fan site atu2.com. Earlier in the day, I was reading through a thread about the Lamar album. One user had posted the text from a tweet they had read. Without crediting who wrote the tweet, it said “DOES KENDRICK EVEN KNOW THAT U2 IS ON HIS ALBUM, BECAUSE THEIR ALBUM IS STILL ON MY PHONE AND I NEVER ASKED FOR THAT.” Three years later and the iTunes jokes are still coming in.
I told Sandifer about that and he looked at me and said “I wrote that.” Immediately, I busted out laughing. Not only was it a really great pop culture joke, but I was unknowingly talking the author of that solid joke. I marveled at the serendipity of the situation and how small our world can be. I told Sandifer his joke had been circulating on message boards and he flipped out in hysterics over that. He event wanted a picture of the post so he could share it on Twitter. It was great and hilarious moment.
Of course, I didn’t know any of that was going to happen. I was going into the evening a little tired, but ready to start working so I can meet the right people and get the right job and so on and so forth. As a really focused and intense person, it can be hard for me to stop and take in my surroundings. Just pausing and enjoying the simpler and little things can be hard for someone on a mission fueled by their own hunger and ambition. My goal was to network and get things done. If I didn’t talk to Sandifer, I would’ve gone home even more tired and a little stressed. But my conversation with him and that revelation over our shared interests really made my night.
As mentioned earlier, Sandifer is more known by his rap persona Showyousuck. He’s always been a great friend to CHIRP Radio and always a delight to listen to and see perform. One of my favorite tracks of his comes from his 2013 EP Dude Bro. “Makeout King” is a fun party song with a killer synth and laid back lyrics. Sandifer raps about coming to pick you up in a hurry while making out in the backseat listening to Journey. Though Air Credits has a more focused and socially conscious message, Sandifer’s music as Showyousuck is just pure fun. As with “Makeout King,” his other tracks like “80’s Boobs” showcase his penchant for throwback musical stylings and lyrical pop culture references that are fun and great to dance to.
Still very much an independent local artist, Sandifer still makes his mark as a triumphantly creative force in the Chicago music scene. Any and all success he gets is greatly deserved. With a catalogue that continues to get bigger and more prolific, Sandifer’s music has the potential for mass appeal with his catchy tracks and meaningful commentary. Working and talking with him was a perfectly good reminder that I can work hard for what I want, but that I should still take time to slow down and enjoy the things that I would otherwise miss. That if I’m not going to drive myself crazy looking for work, I need to remember that I have a life to live to stay grounded, balanced, and happy. And that includes getting the most laughter and fun out of things that I can.